Disclaimer- I do not own bleach, I merely borrow the characters for my own amusement.

Searching for Acceptance

I can't believe what I'm hearing and I have to resist the urge to clean out my ears with my fingers, that would not look good in front of this particular group of people. Surely this must be some kind of joke, there's just no way that their offer can be serious. I gaze up at the man who's speaking, a look of disbelief in my eyes, and open my mouth to question him but before any words are formed the door bursts open and my best friend Renji steps inside.

There's an excited look on his face as he calls out, "Rukia! Guess what just happened! I passed the second exam! Isn't that great? Now if I pass the next one I. . ."

His voice trails off at this point. He's just noticed the people standing with me and I know he can tell, by their clothes if nothing else, that they're nobility. He halts midway across the room, a look of hesitation on his face.

"Well," the old man amongst the group begins to speak, his voice slightly haughty. "It would seem our deliberations have been interrupted."

They begin to walk away, leaving me to stand in the center of the room by myself.

"Take a few days and consider the situation. We are looking forward to hearing a favorable answer."

Renji seems transfixed and I'm guessing it has something to do with the tremendous reiatsu given off by the young man who had just walked past. It is definitely overwhelming, I noticed the same thing the moment that I met him. I call out to my best friend, hoping to wipe that dumbfounded look off of his face, "Renji."

The sound of my voice seems to snap him out of his trance and his gaze shifts over to me. "Rukia, how are you doing? You had some pretty important looking visitors there huh? Sorry to interrupt. So tell me, what was that all about anyway?"

My gaze shifts away from him as I contemplate what my response should be. Should I tell him what just happened, what they asked of me? We've been friends a long time, maybe he can help. And yet even knowing this, I'm still hesitant to share my situation with him.

His expression changes due to my hesitation and he seems slightly annoyed by my reluctance to answer the question that he posed to me. "So it's a secret huh?"

"That was the Kuchiki family Renji." My words are rushed as I give the explanation. I keep thinking that maybe if I rush through the explanation then it will be easier to give. "They wanna adopt me as their daughter. They said that they're gonna let me graduate right away and after that they can make arrangements to put me into one of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads. Renji. . . I. . . I don't know what to do."

I feel a gentle slap on my shoulders and I gaze up into Renji's face. There's an excited look on his face as he proceeds to give me several reasons why I should accept the offer of the Kuchiki family. And while I know that I should be grateful for his encouragement I feel tears welling up in my eyes. I'm not even listening to his words anymore and when he finishes speaking I remove his hands from my shoulders and quickly turn away from him.

"Thank you."

Tears fall from my eyes as I run out of the room. I need to get away from Renji, away from this place, and I quickly make my way outside. Running to the edge of the school grounds I sit down under a large tree. Pulling my knees up to my chin I wrap my arms around them protectively. I make no sound as I sit here but I find myself unable to stop the flow of hot tears that are cascading down my face.

This doesn't make any sense, what kind of idiot am I? I should be happy. After all these years without a proper family now the Kuchiki family wants to enter me into their clan. And they aren't just any family, they're nobility. This is a chance many from the Rukongai would kill for, literally, but for some reason it doesn't make me happy. What would have made me happy would have been Renji telling me that I didn't need their family, that he was my family. But I did not receive those words from him. Instead he encouraged me to accept their offer.

Maybe he's tired of me holding him back. Maybe he thinks I'll be protected if I join the Kuchiki family and then he'll be free to pursue other things. If that's the case then I can't begrudge him those feelings. After all he put off his plans to become a Shinigami in order to stay with us. He deserves a chance to pursue his dreams without me being in the way.

It is at this moment that I make my decision. I will accept the offer of the Kuchiki family. I have been searching for a place to belong since my days in the Rukongai and it would be foolish to decline such an offer as this.

"Thank you Renji."

As I walk down the hallway I find that my heart is pounding and my thoughts are racing. Now a member of the Kuchiki family, today is my first day as a full-fledged Shinigami. My new family pulled a few strings and I was allowed to join the Thirteen Court Guard Squads without having passed the Academy's exit exam and although I do feel kind of guilty about this fact I'm determined to do well. I will prove to Nii-sama that I am worthy of the Kuchiki name. I swear that I will work hard and then no one can say that I shouldn't be a member of my new squad, Squad Thirteen.

The Shinigami that I'm following gestures toward a small room. "Wait here. The vice-captain will be in shortly."

This said the man turns to leave however he pauses when I call out to him. "I'm just an ordinary new member in the squad. Please try and treat me the same as everyone else."

There's a patronizing look in the man's eyes as he nods. "I'll try and keep that in mind."

The door slides shut however it does not completely close and I can hear the man and several others speaking out in the hallway. They aren't happy that I'm here. They resent my presence in the squad and the fact that the exam was waived for me. And although I can kind of see their point their words still hurt, no matter how much I will them not to. So it's the same even now. Even with the Kuchiki name I still don't fit in. This is no better than my days in the Rukongai.

This was a bad idea. I should have declined the offer of the Kuchiki family and remained at the Academy with Renji. Although it was far from pleasant at least there I had one friend. Here I'm completely alone and utterly alone.

"What the hell are you doing? Get back to your posts, all of you!"

That voice.

My gaze shifts toward the sound of the shouts and I watch as the door slides open and a black haired man steps into the room. He smiles and raises his hand in greeting. "I'm vice-captain Kaien Shiba. Welcome to Squad Thirteen, the best squad in all of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads."

"Yes I see. Thank you sir."

I expect the man to walk away just like all of the others however his gaze narrows and he walks forward and places his hand on top of my head. The gesture isn't overly rough but it's enough to get my attention. "What the hell was that? I am your commanding officer and I expect for you to state your name and give a greeting. What is your name dammit?"

Startled I say, "Rukia Kuchiki."

The pressure he's applying to my head grows stronger.

"And. . ."

"And I'm very pleased to meet you sir!" My words are rushed as I attempt to give him the answer that he wants so he'll release the death grip he has on the top of my head.

The pressure suddenly ceases and a broad grin appears on his face as he pats me on the head. "It's good to have you in Squad Thirteen, the best squad of them all. Unfortunately our captain isn't in the best of health so I pretty much run things around here. In fact it's not a problem if you occasionally forget and address me as Captain Kaien." There's a friendly and somewhat goofy grin on his face as he tells me this.

"I'll try and remember that."

My hands go up to my head, where his hand had been mere moments before. I absently rub at my hair, which he has messed up, thinking about the exchange that had just occured between the two of us. This is all so confusing. A normal greeting, a normal scolding, a normal relationship between officer and subordinate. This is the first time since coming to the Seireitei that I've had anyone other than Renji treat me like a normal person.

First I had people giving me grief because I came from the Rukongai and then, after I was adopted into the Kuchiki family I had people pretending to treat me with respect and then talking about me behind my back. I smile as I watch Kaien leave the room. He has made me feel welcome, for the first time, made me feel accepted. That feeling is worth more to me than mere words can describe.

A/N- It was Rukia this time. Kinda unusual for me but the idea just kinda popped up and my muses would not be denied. So here it is. Thanx for taking the time to read and feel free to offer feedback, it is always greatly appreciated. This is Hitsu-taichou signing out.